Music for a Neglected Season

So we’re all big into Christmas music but where’s the Easter music? Right? A good friend wrote to me recently and I thought I may as well publish my reply here because why not. So if you don’t have Easter music to listen to and teach your kids well, now you do.

Hello dear! This is your musically challenged friend here, asking you for a few reccomendations for favorite Easter music to be listening to throughout the Lent and Easter season. That probably is a massive question, but even a few things off the top of your head would be helpful to me. Getting ready to decorate the house for Easter today (I hope!) and begin some fun Easter activities with the kiddos.

And here’s the scoop, raw, unedited, and unfortunately maybe a little snarky sometimes:

Hi dear,

That is a challenging question because there doesn’t seem to be much
precedent for listening to Easter music. That said, I can give you a
few suggestions.

The one album I know that is pretty focused on it is this:
It is quite nice and has a lot of the holy week standards.

While you’re at it it’s worth having three others from the same folks,
of the Hymn Makers Series. Charles Wesley and Isaac Watts are
especially appropriate for easter because of some of the hymns they
include, but John Newton/William Cowper is also great and possibly my
favorite of the three. There are a whole bunch of other CDs in this
series but these are the three I grew up on and I’m pretty sure the
three best.


I also grew up on this–in fact Mom & Dad had a record of it when we
were super little. It is a different style, very Baptist-y with the
full orchestra, but it really is quite lovely. Volume 2 is
significantly less musical quality than Volume 1 but it looks like
sold together they are actually cheaper than buying just the one.

This is my hands-down favorite these days. Nothing nothing like it.
You’ll learn some new ones since it is heavily Anglican, though maybe
you’ve heard plenty of them while in Sussex. Anyhow, it is worth it
just for Hail Thee Festival Day, a lesser-known Easter hymn. Also For
All The Saints and so many other fantastic ones. And you will LOVE the
text to Father, Hear the Prayer We Offer. I sing it to my kids all the
time when life is hard and set it for Mike’s church choir last year.

Well, that should get you started. Oh, DUH! The most important one is
Parts 2 and 3 of Handel’s Messiah. NOTHING like it. It’s straight
Scripture, and all woven together to tell the theology of Christ’s
passion and resurrection. Whoever compiled those texts for Handel knew
their Bible. So hit that up. I happen to have this recording:
You might check and see if Brian has some particular pre-existing
tastes for performers of this kind of stuff, because there can be
quite a range in sound.

Man! How much money I would have in my pocket right now if music
prices/technology had been what it is now 10 years ago when I bought
all those $16 CDs!!! Depressing!

Well, there are so many, many treasures out there and it’s really
about the specific hymns that are being done. Performances range from
super-awful to stunning, though, so knowing where to look is hard.
I’ll keep sending you ideas if I think of more. Don’t miss Hail Thee
Festival Day on that one album.

I have also had a tradition of watching a DVD performance of the
complete three-hour Bach’s St. Matthew Passion every Good Friday.
(Wow, the one I own is $189 used on Amazon now, lol. And awesome 80s
hairstyles! Youtube it maybe?) Not that I’ve had time for this in the
last couple years! But anyway, stuff like that would be cool to just
have on in the background and it’d give your kiddos a chance of seeing
it happening “live,” which is awesome. While you’re at it, I always
put on Bach’s Easter Oratorio on Easter Sunday morning, but its a
little esoteric because of the German. Still, it’s becomed linked to
Easter for me so that’s what it sounds like to me. 😉

And if you’re digging the Bach sound, his motets are super-cheery and
good Easter texts:
(This CD features Helmuth Rilling, who is Da Boss in US performances
of Bach these days.)

Also Youtube Ralph Vaughan Williams 5 Mystical Songs. (Won’t find
better performances than these: and

And then there’s always a few good things recently by the
Townend/Getty folk I suppose you may’ve heard of while you were in
England. For Good Friday you can’t beat this one:

Finally, teach your kids Kilby’s poem that I recently got published as
a children’s choir anthem called A Carol for Easter. You don’t need
the publication, just use the tune for Hymn #205 in the red Trinity
and here’s the text:

Well, that’ll keep ya busy!!

Love you. Good for you for doing Easter music. Why don’t more people
think about this!?!?!?!?!?

If you could pick only one thing from this list I would definitely go
with the Messiah Parts 2 and 3.

Love love love,

How could I forget this one? This one is so wonderful and some of the
best singing sounds you’ll hear:

And you should get acquainted with Herbert Howells’ English church
music. The first eight tracks on this are some of my favorite stuff. I
blare it in the car while running errands to turn it into a worship
service when I am feeling particularly dried up and empty.
We Reformed folk have lost a lot in ditching the ordinary of the mass.
These texts pretty much straight scripture (Gloria, Sanctus), Nicene
Creed (Credo) and simple prayer (Kyrie, Agnus Dei) and they connect us
to the early centuries of the Christian church. The Te Deum is also
marvelous confessed theology from early centuries. And the “Jubilate”
is just Psalm 100. This stuff rocks.

And you gotta get your dance on with the kids with this one.
Don’t know of a better source for it than this that I just found by
searching for it. We sang it constantly where I went to college and I
fell in love with the simple narrative and the dance-like refrain. So
great for kids! Text here:

While I’m on songs I learned at St. Olaf check out Rise, Shine, You
People. I love the easy, simple modern poetry and the vibrant imagery
which I think makes it especially great for kids to learn. Well, look
here–it’s St. Olaf singing it:
This was the only place I found the text, since it’s copyright:
Source info here:

And a special thanks to the Curious George TV show on Netflix for
making this email possible! 😉

OK now I’m really done. For now.


2 thoughts on “Music for a Neglected Season

  1. Ummm…I’m late here. But I have to thank you for this. Immediately. I find myself in this situation every Eastertide and we usually go to Handel and then to the couple of hymns in a couple of hymnals. This is a wonderful help to me! Thank you!

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